Feeling a Little Thankful, and a Little Hurt

Two pieces I wrote came up this week for people read on MMORPG.com. One was a discussion on progression via levels and skills for Devil’s Advocate, and the other was my explanation for why Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn might very well be a defining moment in MMO history.

On the one hand, commenters on my Devil’s Advocate Post mentioned Asheron’s Call as a game that sort of fulfills the melding of Levels and Skills, and due to my never having played it, I completely skipped it as a talking point.

I felt embarassed. At the same time, I was thankful. Someone had pointed out an issue with my article and it had given me an idea to sort of compare Asheron’s Call and Project Gorgon. It was a good angle to take, and one that I’ll explore for the next Devil’s Advocate.

On the other hand, I also received a comment on the FFXIV post that reads:

You sure did gush a lot for a non biased column.

How much does one of these columns cost a company?

For me, I can read this as trolling, but after the Eurogamer issue that occurred recently, it touched a nerve. As I’m also starting a job at Rappler, a social news site in the Philippines, on November 1, it made me anxious to have my ethics as a writer put into question. Basically, it really stung.

I responded thus,

Just so you know, this isn’t the Devil’s Advocate for this week, and as far as I can remember when I wrote it, I did not mention that I was unbiased.

I like the Final Fantasy brand. At the same time, I will admit that I was disappointed by FFXIII and FFXIV. The information given so far for the game gives me hope, and the potential of a game like this to be a defining moment in MMO history makes me pause, because it can cost tons of jobs and change lives if it fails.

I am enthusiastic for the game based on its potential, but at the same time, I’ve played enough games to know that the potential for something to be good does not make it good unless I try it and make that distinction for myself, based on my personal opinion and my understanding of the situation.

The idea that I am some sort of paid shill is a hurtful insinutation on your part, and while I would defend your ability to say it on this forum if push came to shove, I will not stand by and accept your accusation. Frankly, as a fellow person on this planet, I am hurt by your words, and I honestly hope that you would actually consider the gravity of what you’re saying to me or to anyone else in the future.

In any case, this is just sharing on my part. I take great pains to make sure my pieces are well-written and meaningful, but there are really a ton of variables I can’t account for. I know I should let it pass, but it really soured an otherwise happy day.

You Games-Meandering Bastard

Yes,Victor, you games-meandering bastard.

You’re playing or trying TOO MANY freaking games.

You have Borderlands 2, Dark Souls PC, X-Com: Enemy Unknown, and Morrowind (using the Morrowind visual enhancer) to tide you over on the non-MMO front.

Then you have an active sub to LOTRO, which you don’t play actively, and WoW, which you’re having trouble connecting to reliably.

AND you got a year’s membership to Pirate101?!


Now you’re considering getting The Walking Dead and subbing to RIFT and getting the Storm Legion expansion? I mean, I understand wanting TWD, but you could never stick to RIFT!

And you want to go back just for the freaking housing?! What the bloody, bloody hell is churning around in your head?

*imaginary hairpull*

For the love of all that is finger-licking good, like fried chicken, curb your purchases, at least till November.



Victor’s Meandering Mind.

Pandas are Fluffier Butt-Kicking Versions of Me!

Basically, the above title states my sentiment rather well. I’m enjoying the Pandaria expansion more than any expansion ever primarily because I skipped most of Cataclysm and am actually playing Cataclysm and Pandaria content at the same time. Everything, as a result, feels new!

Pandaren also don’t make me feel so bad, because they’re rotund, like I am. And they kick ass. šŸ˜€

Of course, a Tauren flying kick is still a sight to behold, but a Pandaren Flying Kick is a really close second.

OH! And PET BATTLES ONLINE IS AWESOME. They need to tune some of the abilities for balance though (seeing some very overpowered PVP Pet Battle team-ups reused repeatedly)., but PVE wise it’s fun.

Info Dump: Final Fantasy XIV 2.0

Some twitter friends of mine were discussing Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn because of the recent trailer reveal, and my name was brought up.

In a nutshell, I suppose it’s time to info dump based on what sources I can remember and what I know about the 2.0 incarnation of FFXIV.

1. FFXIV 2.0 is an entirely new client built from scratch, with a graphics engine that can run on more machines. (More info here)

2. As far as I remember, Naoki Yoshida once mentioned that the focus of the game would be shifted to require less levequest grinding and focus on actual quests with stories. If the design intent remains the same, then 2.0 should have more quests, with leves as a secondary source of experience and items.

3.Ā When FFXIV in its current incarnation “ends,” the data of characters from the old client will be transferred from the 1.0 game into the 2.0 game, though some of it will probably be tweaked for manageability. Character data will not be saved past November 1, 2012, and the FFXIV 1.0 servers will be shut off on November 11, 2012 so they can focus on testing 2.0. (Source)

4. Alpha testing will start off as being for Japanese players only mostly so response to any issues is quicker, but will eventually branch out into other countries. (Source)

5. Gameplay-wise, we don’t know much, though the gameplay has been changed in many ways since FFXIV launch compared to now. I’ve heard that Yoshida does want combat to flow better and be faster, so he’s making sure we start off with a full TP bar rather than an empty one. Also, there’s jumping now, as well as new classes and jobs (Arcanist/Summoner is 2.0 specific, but FFXIV does have jobs for the existing classes which will be ported over)

The Problem with Light Novels: A Discussion of Sword Art Online, Part 2

One of the things I enjoy about Sword Art Online is that so much is left to the imagination. The setting of Aincrad and the 100-floor realm with literal permadeath basically begs to be expanded upon in various ways, mostly in terms of world-building, character depth, and psychological analysis.

One of the major disappointments of Sword Art Online as a piece of media, both as a light novel series and as an anime adaptation based on the light novels, is that there’s not enough story to go around.

Not to spoil the series, but Sword Art Online is comprised on nine or ten light novels. Aincrad, which we are introduced to as the Sword Art Online VRMMORPG, is completed by the end of the first novel, which is less than 200 pages in length (light novels tend to not go over 120 pages). Additional background and sidestories were added in the second SAO light novel, but that means that the potential of the Sword Art Online arc feels like it’s watered down because the first novel is essentially a time-skip of two years (By a third of the novel, this is already the case), with gaps in story filled in by novel number two.

Does this diminish the enjoyment of Sword Art Online? Somewhat. But at the same time, because much is left to the imagination, much is also given in recompense to the reader with the overactive imagination.

The funny thing about SAO is that because I’m a MMO game hopper, the the idea that the SAO light novel series is about multiple VRMMORPGs doesn’t seem so far-fetched, and may actually be a good thing, depending on how the author crafts the story. I shall read the novels and watch the anime closely and enjoy each step as it happens.

MMO Sandpark Gone Wrong: A Discussion of Sword Art Online, Part 1

I made mention of Sword Art Online on Twitter a few days ago, but it’s taken me a while to really formulate my thoughts regarding this topic. While my write-up will probably be incomplete, it’s good to at least start the process of discussing this rather intriguing light novel and anime series.

To discuss Sword Art Online as an anime or written work to a group of MMORPG players is difficult, mostly because I get the feeling that some people aren’t particularly interested in the intersection of what is virtual and real and because direct comparisons to other media that discuss MMORPGs will enter the fray. To discuss Sword Art Online to a group of literary critics is also difficult, because the Japanese light novel structure, publishing format, and demographic is vastly different from that of reading other works (I defer to the Wikipedia page on Light Novels for a description of the differences between novels and light novels).

That said, I think the only way I can really discuss Sword Art Online (henceforth termed SAO in this piece) is if I discuss its premise and how reading and watching SAO makes me feel.

The story of SAO begins at 1:00 p.m. of November 6, 2022, when the world’s first completely immersive virtual reality MMORPG goes live in Japan. Only 10,000 copies are available for this game, and in the morning of the game’s release, all 10,000 copies are purchased.

To create the immersive experience of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of SAO, also developed a device known as NerveGear. The Nervegear is a VR helmet that works by rerouting signals from your brain into the game, such that you can perform actions in the world by thinking them, and your body would remain immobile because the NerveGear bypasses your ability to move.

At the story’s beginning, we are introduced to Kirito, who served as one of the 1000 beta testers in the game, and Cline, another player who befriends Kirito. Kirito teaches Cline the basics of SAO’s world, Aincrad. In SAO, aside from magical crystals that heal and teleport, there is no magic that can be cast in the game. Instead, players rely on weapon skills that are trained and leveled up in order to acquire new skills, in addition to allocating statistics that increase dexterity or strength. Aside from fighting skills, crafting and gathering skills also apparently exist in the game, such as smithing, item appraisal, and fishing.

Four hours and twenty five minutes after the launch of SAO, Cline attempts to log out to pick up a pizza, only to discover that the log out button has been greyed out and cannot be used.

At 5:30 p.m, all the players of the game are teleported back to the starting city. By 5:40 p.m. of November 6, 2012, all hell will have broken loose.

Between 5:30 and 5:40 p.m. the sunset-lit sky is tinged blood red, and blood drips from the sky. A faceless man, clad in dark robes, coalesces from the blood: an monolithic figure who simply says, “Attention players, welcome to my world.”

The faceless man is none other than Akihiko Kayaba, and he continues his speech by saying that the inability to log out of the game is not a bug, but a feature of SAO.

He continues, “You cannot log out of SAO yourselves, and no one on the outside can shut down or remove your NerveGear. Should this be attempted, the transmitter inside the NerveGear will act like a powerful microwave, destroying your brain, ending your life.”

To stress the futility of the attempt, he adds that several players’ friends and families have already attempted to remove the NerveGear from the heads of 213 players, resulting in their removal from the game as well as their deaths. The news media has already picked up on the story, and save for officials transferring players to hospitals by temporarily disconnecting the NerveGear from a power source and letting it run on its internal battery, it is expected that no further attempts to remove NerveGears will be made.

Furthermore, permadeath is instituted in SAO. If your HP drops to zero, the NerveGear will activate the microwave, killing players Ā who fail to survive in the game.

To log out of the game, players must ascend the 100 levels of the floating realm Aincrad, defeating a floor boss on each level to gain entry into the next and ultimately defeat the final boss on the 100th floor. As a means of comparison, Kirito mentions earlier that beta testers spent two months attempting to reach the eighth floor.

As an added dagger to the back of every surviving player, Akihiko Kayaba presents each player with an in-game item, <<Mirror>>. Examination of the item forces every player remaining in the game to be represented by a scan of his real-life attributes, including height, weight, muscularity and facial features.

By 5:40 p.m., Kayaba’s speech ends, his robes and body revert to blood, fly back into the blood red sky, and disappear, revealing sunset once more.

These are the first 10 or so pages of the first book of Sword Art Online, and we’ll have more to talk about later on when I continue this post series. Till then, don’t die.

Because Massively’s Commenting System Borked for Me…

Over on Massively, they recently asked about our favorite fluff items.

This was supposed to be my response:

Well… if you had to ask me about a few of my favorite fluff things…

*music is cued*


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on Ā kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Pillows with chocobo feathers and string…

These are a few of my favorite fluff things!

Head of Onyxia and jump jet boot thrusters
Gygax Dice, Golems, and Tauren-made mustard
Golden guns, Furniture, Scepters of Kings

These are a few of my favorite fluff things!

When the dogs bite, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad…
I simply remember my favorite fluff things,
Then I don’t feel so bad!

Unlikable Aspects of Final Fantasy XIV.. and the Plan Moving Forward

As with any game, there are wonderful and not-so-wonderful things to think about when you’re playing it. The following are some of my issues with Final Fantasy XIV in its current state, as well as the plan the Square Enix Development Team has with that particular aspect of the game moving forward.

1. The same tilesets for the world you’re traversing, all jigsawed up.

Simply put, I dislike how the world was created using a handful of tilesets to represent an entire living, breathing continent of a world.

THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD. BWAHAHAHAHA. Then rebuild using more tilesets, presumably. šŸ˜€

2. Levequests are your bread and butter means of gaining experience.

Levequests are essentially repeatable quests people can do to gain experience for their various fighting, gathering, or crafting classes.You gain back 4 levequest allowances every 12 hours, and can stack these allowances to 99 to power through levels as needed.

The game has quests, but those are few and level dependent, and while you can sometimes get a hefty stack of gil from them, as well as some gear, the levequests are the bread and butter means of gaining experience.

THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: From what I’ve heard, the plan moving forward is to give people more quests and make levequesting a more optional experience for everyone. Options are good, and being able to do quests more for great stories appeals to me immensely.

3. The usable, but annoying-to-use User Interface

To leave your party in the game, you need to open up your menu, click on “Party,” go to “Party Details,” then click on “Leave.” It works if you’re using a controller, but as a keyboard + mouse guy, it’s a bit annoying to have to go through the same hoops.

Now, that same bit of logic runs through some other actions, like changing your gear. It is usable, but it’s not fun.

THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD, then make a newer UI that works with modern sensibilities but doesn’t sacrifice accessibility for console/PC controller gamers.

A Storm is Coming… to Eorzea

Right now, I’m playing Final Fantasy XIV and having quite a bit of fun. The old annoyances I had with the game that made me leave before have been mitigated significantly, and Square Enix’s team for the game is really working hard to show people that the Final Fantasy MMO is a force to be reckoned with.

Things I personally love about this game in its current state:

1. Structured Freeform Progression: This is the term I use to refer to how Final Fantasy’s leveling system allows you to be the kind of fighter, harvester, or crafter you want to be.

Changing the tool in my hands changes my class, and there’s a certain satisfaction in leveling up new crafting classes just to see LEVEL UP flash on the screen. Basically, it melds the structured leveling progression of most MMOs with the freedom to not be pegged as a particular class if you feel like switching.

2. Simplified Crafting

Originally, FFXIV’s crafting system damn near forced you to multilevel crafting classes if you wanted to be self-sufficient. To make something of a low level in a certain crafting field, you had to be a high level in a different field (or know who to talk to) to get his stuff you needed to make your own stuff.

Recipes have been streamlined to require fewer components from other fields or at least need specific items from a different, equally or lesser leveled tradeskill. Old recipes still exist though, and those recipes have a “dated” prefix to refer to them being part of the old echelon. You can still try and make those items for XP if you wanted, actually.

3. There’s finally an explanation for seemingly random shit.

There are two resources that seem to be very useful now, and they areĀ http://ffxiv.mozk-tabetai.com/Ā andĀ http://mooglebox.com. One is a great item, loot, and recipeĀ compendium, and the other has a gathering tool that explains what you have to do in the gathering minigames to net specific items from gathering more readily.

4. The Future and its Story

The game is gearing up for a reboot called A Realm Reborn. They will pretty much wipe the whole damned planet out and literally shut down the servers prior to launch to move all the characters onto new servers for the reboot.

The best thing about this for me is that they have a freaking story explanation for the entire event, where (if memory serves) someone teleports every person on the planet to the end of time and then throws them back into the future of the world after a meteor crashes onto the world. Something like that. Basically… you get a cool lore entry about the sundering of Eorzea as a private reward for sticking by the game.

Anyway, if you feel like playing the game before the reboot, sign up and join my character Victor Stillwater on the Masamune Server. Cheers!

Missing Out

I’ve been in quite a haze really. The past few days have had me seeing more anxiety about a job application than normal, and it’s led me to not want to play anything, not even The Secret World.

I missed out on a bunch of Funcom points as a result which makes me feel bad because, I mean… hello? Free stuff.

Anyway, it’s also a bit detrimental for me, as I’ve been looking for inspiration for my second MMORPG.com TSW article… and thankfully, Ambermist of Tastes Like Battle Chicken had an excellent post that I wanted to delve into further with some research.

Here’s to hoping my upcoming article turns out well.